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Leap Of Faith

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Leap of Faith

Vanessa had breathed a sigh of relief when she had walked into the pub and found it surprisingly empty. It had been one of those rare days that she hated her job, and whilst she knew Paddy and Rhona would be sympathetic to how she was feeling what she really needed was to just forget.

Pulling up a stool at the bar, she found herself watching Charity pouring a pint and smiled despite how she was feeling. She knew that the other woman had seen her as nothing more than a plaything, but even after that harsh conversation just before Christmas Vanessa still found her heart beating a little bit faster when the two of them were in close proximity.

“Earth to Vanessa,” a familiar sarcastic voice shook her from her thoughts. “Did you want a drink, or did you just come in here to ogle the bar staff?”

“I, uh,” Vanessa stuttered, feeling the warmth of blush tinge her cheeks. She tried, but failed to think of a witty retort to being caught out staring. “Sorry, just enjoying the view. It’s a good distraction.”

“It’s fine, I’m flattered,” Charity shot back with a grin, propping herself up with her elbows on the bar. “Distraction from what? Bad day?” she asked, triggering a questioning look from Vanessa. “You just look like you’ve a lot on your mind.”

“Work mostly,” she replied sadly. “Difficult day up at one of the farms. A little girl’s horse was hit by a car, had to put it out of its misery,” she added taking a deep breath, trying not to remember the screams that came from the absolutely devastated small child.

She paused, unable to think of what to say next, before feeling fingers clasping her own and giving her hand a squeeze.

“That sounds like the worst,” Charity said with what sounded like sincere sympathy to Vanessa. “In my job, a bad day is when someone gets a bit drunk and rowdy. Can’t be much fun having lives in your hands.” There was a silence. “Go take a seat and I will grab you a drink.”

Vanessa found herself wanting to protest, to insist that she was far happier sitting at the bar but did not have the energy to do so. As much as watching Charity work sounded like more fun than drinking in a corner on her own, she was too tired and drained to do much about it. Instead she wandered over to a table and sat down, noticing as she did that there was now no one standing behind the bar.

After a minute Charity appeared, bottle of wine in hand and with Chas behind her. Vanessa spied them share a knowing look, before Charity grabbed two glasses and strode around the bar. She sank into the chair opposite her, placing the wine and glasses down on the table.

“Don’t you have to work?” Vanessa asked expectantly as the other woman started to pour the first glass.

“Swapped my shift,” Charity replied, sounding as if that was the most normal thing in the world. “Figured you could do with the company,” she added as she poured the second glass and took a swig of dark red liquid.

“So, we are going to have a drink?” Vanessa queried puzzled, knowing she was sounding particularly dense but wanting to be clear on what was happening. “Just the two of us?”

“Yes,” Charity responded slowly, as if talking to a small child. “I will even let you call it a date if you want,” she continued. Vanessa felt her heart actually jump in her chest, and the other woman smirked almost as if she had heard it. “Date or not date, do you fancy the company or not?”

Vanessa hesitated before speaking, knowing that what she said next needed to be the right balance of interested and flippant but completely unable to think of anything casual to say.

“Yes, yes, I would,” she finally answered with a small smile. “Company would be perfect.”

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Vanessa took a gulp of wine from her glass and smiled as she listened to Charity chatter on about her family. She had always thought the Dingles seemed like an interesting bunch, but some of these stories were enough to make her laugh out loud and had managed to make her mostly forget about the trauma of the day. She briefly glanced around the pub, spying as she did that her and her drinking partner were definitely a topic of conversation on more than one table.

Her dad, Megan, Tracy and David were having a drink over in one booth and they had been looking over in her direction pointedly on more than one occasion. Rhona, Paddy and Marlon were at another table nearby and she could sense that the vets desperately wanted to talk to her, but whether that was out of concern over the events of the day at work or over who she was sharing her evening with she was not sure. The recently reunited Moira and Cain were over the other side of the pub, and Vanessa pondered momentarily how she felt about that couple before she refocused her thoughts on the woman in front of her. She smiled at how animated her drinking partner was, her eyes dancing with glee as she explained about something that had occurred many years before.

“What time do you need to get back?” Charity interjected, jolting Vanessa back to reality. “Or are you going to spend all night just staring at me with a soppy expression on your face?” she added teasingly.

“Don’t be mean,” Vanessa retorted with an embarrassed smile. “Soon though,” she continued as she noticed the time on her watch. “Can’t leave Johnny with the babysitter much longer.”

“Shame,” Charity replied with an exaggerated sad voice. “Our date not date has come to an end.”

“About that,” Vanessa started before Charity cut her off by placing her hand across Vanessa’s.

“It’s fine, we’re not a couple, blah blah blah. I get it,” she quickly stated, looking away. “I am just messing around, you know what I’m like. I just thought you’d like some company, that’s all.”

“No, wait,” Vanessa chipped in, trying not to think about the fact that she was sitting in full view of everyone with Charity’s hand wrapping itself around her own. “I did enjoy the company, I mean I do enjoy it. I like this, us, whatever this actually is,” she added, kicking herself mentally for not making much sense. “I like spending time with you. Like this I mean. Not just the other things.”

“Sex, you mean?” Charity said in a loud whisper and Vanessa cursed her for making her blush for the millionth time that evening. “You mean you don’t enjoy that? Because I know that’s a lie,” she added with a knowing wink. “But it’s nice to know you liked this. Listen to us,” she continued, wrinkling her nose. “How polite are we? I like this, this is nice,” she said, putting on a phony posh accent. “How about we just call it a night and then say, if tomorrow or any other day you feel like a chat over a drink or even something more, well you know where I am eh?”

Vanessa nodded, feeling her mouth dry as she realised that whilst she wanted to go home to her little boy, right now all she could think about was what Charity’s lips tasted like when she’d been drinking. The other woman stood, and reached out a hand to pull her up, which Vanessa took and found herself standing so close to Charity she could feel her breath against her face. She wasn’t sure if it was the alcohol or the intoxicating presence of the other woman, but it felt like the world had stopped and there was no one else in the room.

Squashing away her fears Vanessa reached forward, her hand finding a seemingly familiar spot in Charity’s hair and pulled the other woman towards her. Their lips crashed together passionately and for what felt like forever they stood in the middle of The Woolpack, locked together in an embrace. Vanessa heard a gasp from the other side of the pub and she pulled backwards slightly, releasing them both. She found herself staring into the eyes of a very bemused Charity, who had obviously not been expecting that turn of events.

“Are you sure you have to get back?” Charity asked, breathlessly and as Vanessa nodded silently, she found herself slightly pleased at the impact the kiss had had on the other woman. “Well then, give me a minute,” Charity continued, freeing herself from their entanglement. “I will be back,” she added before walking away, a happy smirk scrawled across her face.

It was at that moment that it dawned on Vanessa that the majority of people she considered family and friends, plus half the village and vet clients, were staring at her open-mouthed. She caught her dad and Tracy’s horrified expressions, the concerned looks from Moira and Rhona and the shock emanating from everyone else. As no one moved, she slowly put on her jacket and picked up the two empty glasses from the table, before returning them to the bar. She smiled as Charity appeared in the doorway behind where Chas was standing, and whispered something in her ear causing Chas to roll her eyes but also nod. Charity sauntered round the bar, plonking herself back to stand in front of Vanessa.

“I could come with you,” she started, a hopeful tone in her voice. “If you can’t stay here, I can come to yours? Chas will keep an eye on Noah and Moses is with Ross, so I’ve the night to myself it seems, and I thought I could spend it with you,” she said, the words tumbling out in a rush. “Only if you want to mind you,” she added, almost as an afterthought, as if she thought she might be about to be turned down.

It was in that moment that Vanessa realised that whilst she had just put herself out there by initiating the kiss in public, that had been done in an intense hazy moment without much consideration. Charity on the other hand had opened herself up to the possibility of public rejection willingly, which Vanessa doubted she would have done if she didn’t actually want this too.

“Can’t think of any better way to spend an evening,” Vanessa whispered back, not really wanting to have a conversation about their night time plans in front of her dad and sister if at all possible.

She turned to walk out the door, head held high but not meeting anyone’s gaze, and as she went to leave she felt warm arms wrap themselves around her stomach as Charity connected them once again. Vanessa smiled, knowing that as she did so that soppy expression the other woman had earlier called her out for was creeping back across her features. Tonight, they would be sharing a bed once again, but this time it was her bed and Vanessa couldn’t wait to wake up beside Charity the next morning.

Chapter Text

Leap of Faith – Part Two

Vanessa leant back against the kitchen counter as the kettle boiled, two cups made up ready for tea and reflected back on the events of the previous evening. Part of her wanted to bolt the door and stay in the house forevermore rather than face the questions and disapproving looks of family and friends that awaited her outside, but the other part of her wanted nothing more than for the sleeping woman upstairs to wake up so they could head out into the village together, facing down all those who dared throw criticisms and comments their way.

She had always had a mischievous side, playful and up for a laugh, and it wasn’t as if this would be the first time she’d be the centre of the gossip. Dating a 17-year-old and ending up in a paternity nightmare had definitely given her an unpleasant taste of that. However, this was different, because this felt different. Vanessa found herself simultaneously wanting to protect whatever this connection between her and Charity was and shout about it from the roof tops, which made knowing that doing both may be impossible quite frustrating.

Tiny fingers tugged at the corner of her trousers and she smiled down at her son, who as always had been awake since before first light just like his mum. She picked him up and cuddled him, loving the giggles that radiated from his belly as she tickled his sides, before a movement on the stairs caught her attention.

“If you’re attempting to sneak out, you’ll have to wake up far earlier in future,” she called over, startling the woman creeping down the stairs. “My little monster doesn’t like lie ins anymore than I do, unlike in your house where an earthquake could occur every morning and you’d all still sleep through,” she added jokingly.
“Sneaking out is more your style than mine babe,” Charity retorted, appearing in the room with a smirk on her face and yesterdays clothes on. “And I will have you know that running a pub is a very nocturnal lifestyle,” she continued, before being cut off by beeps from her phone.

Vanessa balanced Johnny on her hip and turned to pour the tea, questioning herself as to exactly when it was that she learnt how Charity liked to take hers, before turning back round and offering the other woman a mug.

“Anything important?” she asked. “On the phone, I mean,” she elaborated at her companion’s puzzled expression.

“Oh nothing,” Charity replied, before hesitating. “Well, no, Ross is asking when I will be round to get Moses and Noah is pestering me about buying him breakfast in the café,” she continued. “Apparently Chas and Paddy are driving him mad.”

“That I can understand,” Vanessa replied with a wry smile. “You can go you know, if you need to see to the kids. Its not like I don’t understand that,” she added, jiggling her son in her arms as if to prove her point. “I’m just grateful, about last night, you staying…”

“You’re grateful we had S-E-X?” Charity shot back with fake shock and a mocking expression, which fast turned to a grin as Vanessa looked from her to Johnny and back horrified. “What? He’s just a baby, he can’t spell,” she furthered more contritely. “I just meant you don’t have to be grateful I stayed. Whatever this is, we both have responsibilities and stuff.”

They stood in silence for a few moments, both drinking from their mugs and unsure what to say next until Johnny started wriggling in Vanessa’s arms a little too much to be comfortable.

“He’s hungry,” she said aloud, as if by way of explanation. “He’s no good in the morning without some grub inside him,” she continued, smiling at the little boy.
“You should join us for breakfast,” Charity interrupted, the words coming out all as a rush much to the surprise of them both. “You should join us for breakfast,” she repeated, slower this time and with what Vanessa could only assess as nerves. “In the café. Me, Noah and Moses,” she finished, and Vanessa swore she could feel the other woman’s heart beating in her chest.

“Hang on,” she replied. “Yesterday we were all casual date not date and today we’re doing brunch with the kids. Isn’t that a bit of a big step?” she asked, her heart and stomach both lurching in what she felt was either anticipation, excitement or a heady mix of them both.

“It’s alright if you don’t want to, or you’re not ready,” Charity responded quietly, putting her mug down on the table and turning away. “I need to go and pick the kids up anyway, so I will be heading off.”

“I never said I didn’t want to, just that I wanted us both to be sure,” Vanessa cut in shyly. “Me, you and the boys having breakfast in the café is an excellent way to start the day. Johnny and Moses are too little to see it as anything other than a fun outing, but Noah… I mean, what does he even know about what is going on?”
“Noah will be just fine. Well he’s a teenager and he insists the world is ending on an hourly basis but apart from that, he will be fine,” Charity said with a chuckle, brushing off the concern. “As long as we put a large plate of food in front of him and don’t talk about what we have been getting up to, he won’t care if we are there or not. Well, unless,” she continued, pausing for effect. “Unless he finds out you tease me just as much as he and Debs do, in which case he will try and unite with you to wind me up.”

“Well I look forward to that then,” Vanessa laughed in return. “So, meet you in the café in 15? Give you a chance to pick up the kids?” eliciting a nod from Charity in return.

“See you and little man there then,” Charity concluded, waving sweetly at Johnny as she turned to leave. “Oh, and Vanessa,” she added, briefly returning to face her. “If I’m going to stay here more often, you and the boy are going to have to learn to get up later. It still feels like the middle of the night to me,” she concluded, before exiting with a hearty laugh in her voice.

Vanessa smiled and kissed the top of Johnny’s head, before starting to ready them both to head out to the café. Her heart couldn’t help but beat a little faster at the thought of the other woman sharing her bed with her more often, but right now the distraction of an imminent public breakfast with two toddlers and a teenager who may or may know she was sleeping with his mum was beckoning.

She wasn’t entirely sure if she was jumping for joy or absolutely terrified, but one thing was for certain – there was no going back now, for either her or Charity. This was not a day for hiding.

Chapter Text

Leap of Faith – Part Three

Vanessa locked her front door before turning to face the village. She silently cursed that for some reason everyone seemed to be up and out, when she had been inwardly hoping her neighbours and friends would all be enjoying a long lie in. She grabbed the handles of Johnny’s pushchair and started out towards the café, her mind pondering as she did whether her or Charity would be there first. She was not sure which she’d rather, because either way would draw attention to them and potentially be awkward. She doubted it was possible to get two toddlers, a teenager and two adults seated and eating without some degree of kerfuffle.

As she approached the café, she noticed a familiar young man leaning against one of the tables eyes firmly focused on the phone in his hand. She had not previously interacted much with Noah, but from what she had seen he was a decent enough kid albeit one who had been through enough in his little life to be considered troubled. She knew Charity adored him and felt guilty over his unstable upbringing, all of which caused a nagging doubt in Vanessa’s mind about how badly wrong this breakfast could go.

“You spent the night with my mum,” Noah’s voice came with a surly tone as he looked up from his phone and spotted her approaching. His statement caught Vanessa on the hop, having not expected the teen to be quite so direct and she felt her cheeks flush red in spite of her best endeavours to remain calm.

“Uh,” she stuttered, unable to formulate a response. “Perhaps this is a conversation you should be having with your mother?”

“I did,” Noah retorted, rolling his eyes as only a teenager can. “She said she spent the night with you, that’s why I was asking,” he continued, standing up and pushing his hands in his pockets. “You’re a vet, right?” he asked, causing Vanessa to nod. “And a mum?” he added, gesturing at Johnny. “Are you rich?” he queried pointedly.

“No, I’m not rich Noah. But yes, I’m a vet, and I’m Johnny’s mum,” she replied, trying to work out where this was going. “Your mum and I are…”

“I don’t need any details,” Noah hurriedly cut in with alarm. “Mum stayed at your house, that is more than enough info thanks. I just wondered what you were like. Mum normally only gets with losers or creeps, but you seem nice,” he concluded awkwardly, looking away.

“I definitely try to be nice,” Vanessa responded softly, reaching out and patting him on the arm. “I genuinely like your mum, but right now I’m guessing we are both starving so how about we go and get some brekkie and then you can ask me any questions you want. That sound like a plan?”

Noah nodded and started towards the café door, before halting to open it and let Vanessa manoeuvre the pushchair in. As she walked past him, she caught his eye and smiled. “I happen to think you seem nice too,” she said, catching him off guard and eliciting a sheepish grin in response.

 

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Vanessa placed her knife and fork back on the plate in front of her, realising she was too full to finish eating the remnants of her breakfast. She had ordered the largest portion, knowing she had worked up quite an appetite from the previous nights activities, but it had defeated her. As she looked across the table to her breakfast companions, she noticed that none of them seemed to have the same problem.

Johnny and Moses were sitting in high chairs next to each other, apparently equally intrigued and irritated by the presence of the other toddler. They had both managed to devour what was placed in front of them, however she chuckled as she spotted that the majority of this had been splayed across their faces on the way to their mouths. The two of them were both now wrapped up in scribbling with crayons all over themselves as well as the menu. Noah had finished the largest breakfast Vanessa had ever seen, but she guessed teenage boys had perhaps the biggest of appetites. He had gone back to being engrossed in his phone, but occasionally kept looking up at her with a look on his face that she had not quite understood yet.

“Vanessa? Anyone home?” Charity said from across the table, intercutting Vanessa’s thoughts and causing her to look up. “Anyone would think you were off in your own little world over there,” she continued.

“This feels so normal,” Vanessa replied after a considered pause. “Being here, having breakfast. Just like everyone else.”

“And that’s a problem?” Charity questioned, obviously intrigued. “I thought you wanted normal. There’s no reason we can’t be normal,” she continued, emphasising the word normal.

“Mum you’ve never been normal,” Noah interjected without even looking up from his phone, earning him a playful slap across the knee from Charity.

“I never said there was anything wrong with being normal,” Vanessa replied with a smile. “Just that I didn’t think we’d get here this quickly. I didn’t say I didn’t like it, it just takes a bit of getting used to that’s all.”

“If it makes you feel better, Bob and Brenda have been staring at us and gossiping to everyone who comes into the café about this,” Charity explained, gesturing at the table the five of them were sat around. “We can’t be that normal if everyone is talking about us,” she finished smartly, raising her eyebrows and smirking at Vanessa.
“Its because Vanessa is nice,” Noah interrupted, causing both women to stare at him in bemusement as he looked up. “What? She’s much nicer than most of the other people you’ve been with, and she’s not rich so you aren’t trying to scam her.”

“Noah,” Charity admonished him, semi jokingly. “You’re not making me sound good here you know,” she continued, making Vanessa laugh out loud at Charity’s indignant expression.

“I’m not easily put off I assure you,” Vanessa responded, shaking her head at the mum and son banter from across the table.

“Well good,” Charity chipped in. “Because this one is not helping right now,” she added, pointing at Noah. “And anyway, Noah, people aren’t talking about us because of my previous relationships,” Charity explained, getting her son’s attention once more. “II think it is more likely itis because Vanessa is a woman and I’m a woman, people are just surprised that we might be seeing each other.”

“Do they not like lesbians?” Noah asked loudly, looking straight over towards Bob and Brenda. Charity covered his mouth with her hand in shock and Vanessa found herself sinking into her seat, knowing full well everyone in the café had simultaneously stopped their conversations on hearing the teenagers statement. She caught Charity’s gaze and the two of them descended into a fit of giggles.

“Oh Noah,” Charity finally managed to respond, raising her voice deliberately so everyone could hear as she wiped the laughter generated tears from her eyes. “I’m sure no one here has anything against lesbians, but if they do I’m sure Ness and I can win them round,” she continued with a grin. “Can’t we Ness?”

“Oh yes,” Vanessa replied, just as loudly as Charity even though her stomach was tying itself in knots at the attention. “I mean, what’s not to like eh?”

“You’re both weird,” Noah looked from Vanessa to Charity and back again, before excusing himself to buy even more breakfast from a still confused looking Bob.
Charity moved over into his seat, so she was next to Vanessa and reached out her hand, so their fingers interlinked on Vanessa’s knee.

“Noah is quite a kid,” Vanessa said, watching him at the counter. “He is completely unbothered by us, being, well us. I mean, I thought I was alright with it but to him me being female seems to be the least interesting part of me dating his mum,” she continued with admiration.

“So, we are dating, are we?” Charity replied, squeezing Vanessa’s fingers in her own. Vanessa turned and caught a slightly pained expression on the other woman’s face, as if she still had some doubt over what this connection between them actually was.

“I’d like to think that’s what this is,” Vanessa responded, reaching out to stroke Charity’s cheek with her hand. “But I have two conditions,” she continued, getting a shocked expression from her breakfast companion in reply. “One, the next time we meet up with the kids it is a little less publicly embarrassing and two, lets never take normal for granted.”

“I think we can make that a deal,” Charity acknowledged, leaning in for a kiss. Vanessa found herself instantly responding, and in spite of their public setting she could not have been happier.

“Ugh, mum,” Noah’s voice cut in from across the table, causing them to break apart. “You’re so embarrassing, you’re too old to be snogging in public,” he concluded with teenage disdain.

Vanessa looked across at Noah and then back at Charity, before both women threw their cushions at the young man who had just sat down to eat his second breakfast of the morning. His shocked expression was enough to set them off into another fit of giggles, which quickly extended to both Johnny and Moses, before finally even Noah joined in.

Vanessa sank back into the chair, her hand once again meeting Charity’s own, and as their fingers locked she realised that this was what it meant to be content. She wasn’t sure she had ever known this feeling before and she definitely did not want to give it up for anyone.